Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Jennifer Santana did not give up on getting her life on track, even when the barriers seemed overwhelming. Santana, of Fall River, Mass., is now determined to positively help others in similar situations and credits her accomplishments to Bristol Community College for the education and support she received.
Santana’s story starts young. The pressures of a difficult childhood led her to alcohol and street drugs at the young age of 12 years old. Addiction can turn the world upside down, but Santana was strong-willed and continued to attend school. While she was attending BMC Durfee High School, she became pregnant and had to continue her education at night school. Santana didn’t stop until she received her diploma in 1992. She attended Bristol straight out of high school, but was struggling due to an undocumented learning disability and substance abuse. Not knowing how to ask for help, Santana left Bristol and fell deeper into her addictions.
She hit what she calls “rock bottom” after attending rehab in 2007. For the next seven years she considered herself a prisoner to her addiction, rarely leaving her bedroom. Santana’s mother had become the caretaker for two of her young children.
However, in Santana’s words, “There was always something inside of me that wanted success.”
On February 13, 2014, everything changed. She heard the voices of her two young children coming from her mother’s home next door. In that instant she “saw the light”– and took it as a sign from God to get her life straight. Soon she re-entered rehab in Boston. Santana celebrated five years of sobriety on February 14, 2019.
A year into her sobriety Santana decided to return to Bristol. She was welcomed into the college community and introduced to our resources like the Office of Disability Services, where she got help for her dyslexia. A first generation college student, she credits the support system of Bristol’s staff for helping her through several obstacles and also for inspiring leadership.
Now, Santana focuses on the areas of mental health and substance abuse at her internship in the Bristol Women’s Center. As a survivor of domestic violence and substance abuse, Santana wants to use her experience to empower others in the community.
Santana will graduate on June 1 with an associate degree in human services. She hopes to transfer to Bridgewater State University, with the goal of becoming a social worker. Citing her four children as her inspiration, Santana is looking forward to the future and all of its possibilities.